Liriope (Liriope spp.), sometimes known as lily turf, is a tough, grass-like perennial that thrives in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 4 through 10. If you need a tough ground cover, liriope just might be the solution. It grows 12 to 18 inches tall and has a spreading, clumping form. The leaves are strap-like and come in blue, green or variegated forms. Liriope forms clusters of lily-like blooms in lavender or white in late summer. The flowers are followed by bluish black berries.
Liriope is the sort of plant that grows almost anywhere. It blooms best in full sun, but it tolerates partial shade. It’s not picky about soil type either. Once established, the plant grows well in clay or sand soils and tolerates some drought. It tolerates salt and is often used in coastal areas. It doesn’t grow well in soggy, wet soils, though, so amend heavy soils with compost or peat moss to improve drainage.
Liriope is propagated from divisions or nursery transplants. Plant it in spring to fall. Water the planting as often as needed to keep the soil lightly moist, especially during the first year after planting. Mulch the ground with 2 inches of wood chips to conserve moisture and keep weed growth down.
Liriope is evergreen in mild climates. In northern climates, it sometimes dies back. Mow evergreen liriope back in spring to promote strong new growth. Set your mower to its highest setting so you don’t damage the roots. Cut back and remove any dead foliage.
Liriope doesn’t need a lot of fertilizer. A light application of 10-10-10 – around ¼ cup per plant – applied in the spring is sufficient, especially if you have fertile soil. In fact, too much fertilizer can make this plant more prone to disease and insect problems. Liriope spreads quickly and can become invasive in moist, warm climates. It works best planted as a ground cover, rather than in mixed beds. Dig it up and divide it every three to four years to control its growth.
Pests and Problems
Liriope suffers few pest and disease problems. Remove the mulch if snails and slugs are a problem. Handpick and destroy slugs and snails or set snail traps. Use these with care though because they’re toxic to animals.
Liriope sometimes develops brown spots along the leaf margins caused by anthracnose. The disease is rarely serious. Remove the infected leaves and discard them. Water liriope early in the morning and use drip irrigation instead of soaker hoses, because wet leaves spread the disease.
There are two main types of liriope – Big Blue Lilyturf (Liriope muscari) and Creeping Lilyturf (Liriope Spicata). The first type has a tall, clumping form and tends to stay in one place. It is appropriate for edgings and for use in mixed beds. Its leaves and flowers are slightly larger than creeping lilyturf.
Creeping lilyturf has an invasive, spreading quality. It should be used as a groundcover and performs as a tall grass.
Big Blue Lilyturf Varieties:
‘Silvery Sunproof’ grows 9 to 15 inches tall, with yellow and white variegated foliage. This plant tolerates sun in hot climates.
‘Evergreen Giant’ grows 18 to 24 inches tall and has stiff, green leaves and white flowers.
‘Gold Band’ has wide, green leaves edged in gold and lavender flowers. This plant grows 15 inches tall.
‘Samantha’ has green leaves and pink blooms, and reaches 15 inches tall.
Creeping Lilyturf Varieties:
‘Silver Dragon’ produces lavender flowers and white and green variegated leaves. It grows 12 inches tall.
‘Franklin Mint’ has green leaves and pale lavender flowers. It also grows about 12 to 15 inches tall.
For more information visit the following links:
Liriope spicata from the Missouri Botanical Garden
Plant of the Week: Liriope from the University of Arkansas.
Julie Christensen learned about gardening on her grandfather’s farm and mother’s vegetable garden in southern Idaho. Today, she lives and gardens on the high plains of Colorado. When she’s not digging in the dirt, Julie writes about food, education, parenting and gardening.